Driving Torque

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Audi Q3 TFSI S line – Driven and Reviewed

Audi_Q3_Sline_interiorUsual Audi interior quality

Anyone who’s ever sat in any breed of Audi, of any description, or who knows someone who has, will be well aware that they know a thing or two about making interior spaces comfortable and inviting, and this Q3 is no different. Taking something like a car’s dashboard for granted is an easy thing to do – it’s not something people usually talk about, but when you look at the way the Q3’s is sculpted and formed to be as user-friendly and attractive as possible, it gives a very good indication of just how much importance Audi place on their living spaces.

It doesn’t end with a few nice shapes though – the tactile element of the Q3’s cabin is just as satisfying; I’ve pointed out before how important the feel of a steering wheel should be to manufacturers – it’s the part of a car your hands will come into contact with most often, by far. Run your hands over an Audi steering wheel, especially an S Line one, and it just feels right – such an obvious detail, and yet one so often overlooked.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_front_lightLet there be light……

Audi have also set the pace recently regarding illumination; they were the first manufacturer to feature DRLs (daytime running lights) – for a while, bright LED light signatures on any car were referred to as “Audi lights”. Their expertise in the field is mirrored inside the car also. Combining the usual white lights with their trademark red creates an atmosphere and ambience that’s unparalleled. Any photographer or interior designer will tell you that light can be your best friend or your worst enemy – depending on how it’s used; Audi get on very well with light.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_frontPanoramic glass sunroofs are another great way of adding light to any car and can make any small space feel more generous. If you’re going to spend £1,100 on the Q3’s optional roof , I’d just be a bit wary if anyone driving it’s over 6 feet tall. I use this height as the limit because that’s how tall I am and I just about got away with it with the seat on its lowest setting – anyone any taller will curse the glass roof as it does steal a valuable couple of inches of headroom.

…….and sound

Speaking of options though, at £690, the BOSE surround sound system is an absolute must. I’ve driven cars with far more expensive systems from equally impressive stereo makers, and been left completely underwhelmed. Not so the BOSE – it is absolutely sublime and, I think, a bit of a bargain.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_sideUpdate due soon

The Q3 will be updated fairly soon with a bit of a facelift and slightly revised engines  – you can have a look here; http://www.audi.co.uk/new-cars/q3/q3.html – but they’ll still be instantly recognisable as Audi’s smallest SUV (until the rumoured Q2 comes out soon, at least). They’ll also still utilise VAG’s PQ35 platform – it may not be as modern and ubiquitous as the MQB platform, but it performs admirably on the Q3. It handles the road with the minimum of fuss, achieving the objective of performing more like an A3 than a big, wallowy SUV when the tarmac comes over all twisty, even without Audi’s much-lauded Quattro system driving all four wheels.

Part of the New Q3’s facelift will involve, quite literally, a facelift, with the dominant feature – the Darth Vader/Hannibal Lecter/Hoover Dam ‘mouth’ being remodelled into something more 3D and slightly more subtle – very much in the style of the original Q3 from 2011. This shape Q3 is slightly front-heavy in the looks department, but when you add the larger wheels and other highlights that come with the S-Line spec that’s on our test car, it all balances out very well.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_leatherSmaller is better

The New Q3 will also come with some updated engine technology, the most frugal being a very clever, cylinder deactivating variant of the 1.4 TFSI petrol we’ve got here. Audi expect around one fifth of sales to be powered by their smallest unit, I’m thinking it’ll be a little higher. At 137g/km it produces Diesel rivalling levels of CO2 and slots into tax band E, yet at the same time, it’s genuinely good fun to drive. Sub 10s 0-60 times aren’t anything to write home about, but the way this Q3 is geared, combined with that beautifully weighted chassis, makes for a hugely satisfying driving experience. An unexpected bonus is the fantastic burble from the exhausts when you hit 4000rpm; I really wasn’t expecting it but the tones that resonate through the cabin just add to the sense of fun.

If you still need convincing to swap a larger oil-burner for this TFSI petrol, can I just throw in the fact that it’ll cost a whopping £3,900 less than its nearest priced alternative. £4K is not to be sniffed at and it quite conveniently keeps the Q3 more wallet-friendly than some other manufacturer’s alternative, namely the Range Rover Evoque.

Audi_Q3_badgeWhat does it all add up to?

Sometimes, every once in a while, you put all the correct ingredients together and life has a really vexing way of messing the recipe up, with no explanation offered, leaving you with a right dog’s dinner where should have been a masterpiece.

Conversely, sometimes the opposite occurs and what, on paper, shouldn’t turn out to be anything particularly special is actually pretty wonderful.

I think it’s called equalling more than the sum of its partsand this fairly run-of-the-mill Audi Q3 is a superb example of such an occurrence.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Audi Q3 TFSI S line, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 150Ps, Torque – 250Nm, Emissions – 137g/km CO2, Economy – 47.9 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 126mph, Acceleration – 9.2s 0-62mph, Price – £25,850 OTR, £32,770 as tested

For full details go to http://www.audi.co.uk

New KIA Soul ‘Mixx’ – Driven and Reviewed

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_sideLet’s face it – the inherent shape and dimensions of the first Soul was ‘slightly boxy’ – if you’re being kind, and ‘a bread van’ – if you’re not. With this New Soul, KIA haven’t completely deserted their original concept, but it’s certainly been ‘jazzed up’ (excuse the music-based pun) a bit.

Look Familiar?…….

The New Soul is unashamedly aimed at the ultra-lucrative ‘want-a-4×4-but-don’t-want-the-running-costs‘ market. Gone is the slightly dopey face of the Mk1, in its place is a far more determined look and an elongated version of the all-important ‘tiger nose’. Coupled with its bulgier, muscular bodywork, the New Soul is a far more visually attractive proposition than its predecessor, especially in this eye-catching ‘Mixx’ spec we have on test. Parked side-by-side, I was really surprised at how similar the New Soul was to the MINI Countryman – they may have come at it from completely different angles, but it’s interesting to see how two polar-opposite manufacturers can come to very similar conclusions regarding what the public wants.

In the Mixx

It may retail at nearly £20K (£19,750), but this model doesn’t represent the top of the Soul range – that’d be the Maxx. I’d say that if it’s total domination of all possible attention that you’re after, though – this will be the one to go for. The dual-colour, contrasting roof option is a brave move but it really works on the New Soul and fits in well with its youthful persona. It is only available on the Mixx (see what they’ve done there), in fact – if you want a monochromatic Soul – you’ll have to opt for one of the other trim levels.

The New Soul’s interior is a well thought out, funky place to be seen, with a better standard of plastics and design than you’d expect from previous Korean efforts. This isn’t just a generic dash and fascia that could be found in any number of similar models, it’s fresh, new and some real thought’s obviously been put into making the New Soul’s ‘in’ as eye-catching and original as the ‘out’.

Infinity audio system

......meanwhile, in Area 51

……meanwhile, in Area 51

All but the two cheapest model Souls come equipped with an 8 speaker Infinity audio system, complete with its very own amp and subwoofer. I’d have given a minor body-part to have my car kitted-out with an Infinity sound system when I was younger, and the make still holds major weight in the ‘tunes’ market today. The flashing speakers are possibly a little OTT (that could just be my age, though), but the noise that your Infinity equipped New Soul will make is ‘absolutely bangin”(or whatever the cool-kids are saying these days). It may not matter to some, but I was really impressed with the way this Infinity multimedia system has been personalised with the ‘Soul’ font, rather than using the standard one it’s manufactured with. For me, it’s little bits of attention to detail like this that make a car stand out from the competition.

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_rearThere’s plenty of head and leg room for all inhabitants of the New Soul, and anyone with young children will be thankful for the spine-friendly seat height that makes getting said-children in and out less of a chore. The trade-off for this voluminous living space is a bit of a pokey boot that, at 354l, is surprisingly stingy considering the shape of the car. It will fit a decent sized supermarket shop in – I tested this personally, but getting a modern buggy in – and the other paraphernalia that young children come with these days, will require some manoeuvring and possibly putting a rear seat down.

1.6l or 1.6l

In the very near future, an electric Soul (EV) will be available to buy, if that takes your fancy, but for the moment, the New Soul comes with a choice of two 1.6l fossil-fuel burners. There’s a petrol or a Diesel, the latter being available with an auto ‘box in Connect, Connect Plus and Mixx specs. Equipped with a manual ‘box, they both produce near-identical levels of power and performance (126bhp & 130bhp, 0-60mph in 10.6 & 10.81s respectively). The petrol variant does represent a £1,600 saving over the equivalent Diesel, and that would take some time to recoup, but for my money, I’d opt for the Diesel manual New Soul, like our test car. The extra low-down grunt (260Nm vs 161Nm), coupled with the less frequent trips to the petrol station (56.5mpg combined vs 41.5mpg) just about edges it in favour of the Diesel.

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_frontOn the road, the New Soul is surprisingly civilised, especially on the motorway. The Diesel engine is barely audible from the inside and, speaking of noise, KIA have done an admirable job of keeping wind noise to an absolute minimum. With such a square shape and over-sized door mirrors, you’d expect a fair amount of buffeting and whistling, increasing to levels of annoyance at higher speeds – not so, the New Soul – it’s whisper quiet (apart from your bangin’ Infinity tunes, of course).

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_badgeJust love those wheels

The ride is also far more settled and smooth than you’d expect from this type of car, again, even at 60mph+. Anyone slightly scared by the effect on ride quality that the very-cool 18” wheels on our test car might have – fear not! There’s no banging or crashing over bumps, even with the low-profile tyres; they make the New Soul look absolutely brilliant on the move, too – I’d tick that option box every time!

One thing the New Soul isn’t made for is break-neck performance. In the Diesel, first and second gear are nice and friendly, and 30mph comes around quickly enough, it’s when you venture into the higher gears that the Soul seems to struggle and there’s a distinct lack of oomph. With either engine choice, it’ll keep up well enough with traffic but don’t expect to break any records around the ‘Ring – not until a Soul’s made available with the turbo engine from the pro_cee’d GT, anyway.

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_rear_lightAt £19,750, the New Soul ‘Mixx’ couldn’t really be described as ‘cheap as chips’, no matter how funky it is. If you want the Diesel variant, you can get in a New Soul for a more wallet-friendly £16,400, or if you prefer your fuel unleaded, there’s a Soul that’ll only cost £12,600. Neither of these will be as fun or smile-inducing as the higher-specced models, but it’s still a decent bit of family friendly kit and that 7 year warranty still comes as standard across the range.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; KIA Soul ‘Mixx’, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 126bhp, Torque – 260Nm, Emissions – 132g/km CO2, Economy – 56.5 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 112mph, Acceleration – 10.8s 0-60mph, Price – £19,750 OTR

For full details, go to http://www.kia.co.uk

Volvo V40 Cross Country – Driven and Reviewed

What is it?

Volvo_v40_CC_frontWe tested the standard Volvo V40 a while back and we were thoroughly impressed with the looks, the practicality and what a great overall package this mid-sized hatch – brought to you by the Kings of Estates – was.

So, what happens when it’s jacked up a couple of inches and liberally garnished with some tough, chunky looking bits of trim? The CC (Cross Country) is what happens, oh, and the price goes up by a thousand pounds.

Unlike similar models of this genre, the CC is available in 4×4 guise, for those customers who need the off-road capability to match the looks, but it’s only available with the most powerful of petrol engines. That’ll cost you a not-inconsiderable £34K, so I think it’s a fair guess that the majority of CCs sold will be Diesels, just like this D3 model we have on test here.

Chic Interior

Volvo_V40_CC_interiorApart from a ‘Cross Country’ logo above the glovebox, the interior of the CC is exactly the same as the standard V40 model, and that’s no bad thing. The more Volvos I drive, the more I’m certain that their cabins are some of the nicest places you could wish to find yourself. Say what you want about the likes of Audi and Jaguar, but the effortlessly stylish design features in this V40, coupled with some innovative, high quality materials and the most attractive multimedia system add up to provide an ambience that’s second to none.

Take, for example, the seat fabrics in our V40. It’s not leather or Alcantara, so the generic description of the material used would simply be ‘cloth’. But that’s not doing it justice. It’s like sitting on a pair of reassuringly expensive designer jeans – not the kind you’d do the gardening in, more like a pair you’d don with a crisp white shirt and wear on a first date. It’s little touches like this that put the V40 a place above most similarly sized hatches.

Road Manners

Volvo_V40_CC_rear_lightThe CC guise may add ruggedness and road-prescence, but what does that extra height do to the agreeable road manners found in the V40? Apart from the obvious advantage when it comes down to tackling speed-humps and our increasingly scarred roads,  the fact is that it still sticks to the road very well and the slight addition of body-roll is only noticeable if you really push-on. If you were to ask any potential customer whether they’d trade a tiny loss in handling for the highly sought after gain in ride height over the standard car, I’m fairly sure they’d go for the CC.

This D3 model comes with Volvo’s torquey 5-cylinder Diesel engine with 150bhp, and it does very little wrong. It’s economical enough (114g/km & 64.2mpg) and once some initial rattle at start-up’s calmed down, you’ll merely detect a pleasant, distant sounding rumble, and that’s only if you turn the excellent sound system down that comes as standard.

Volvo_V40_CC_sideskirtMated to Volvo’s ‘Powershift’ automatic ‘box, driving the CC is a far more engaging experience than you’d possible warrant in this genre. The ‘box works very well and has an uncanny knack of being in the right gear without any over-revving or labouring most of the time; it’s far more satisfying than you’d expect the sum of its parts to be. There is a ‘Sport’ mode that changes up later and down earlier, as most sport modes do, but, if I’m honest, it feels a touch out of place in the CC, especially when the driving experience is so sorted to start with.

Does it work?

It would actually have been quite difficult for Volvo to mess this car up, as the V40 it’s based on is a great car in itself. Some subtle off-roady touches and a dash of extra road presence are well worth the £1000 price tag over the standard car, but even against similar competition, the CC is a fabulous piece of kit.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Volvo V40 D3 SE Nav Powershift, Transmission – 6 spd automatic, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power150bhp, Torque – 350Nm, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy – 64.2 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 127mph, Acceleration – 9.6s 0-62mph, Price – £25,770 OTR, £31,905 as tested.

Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC 2WD – Driven and Reviewed

Paris Motor Show

New Honda CR-V at Paris Motor ShowThese are certainly exciting times for Honda. The Paris motor show was something of a showcase for the Japanese goliaths as not only were new models and face-lifts presented to The World, but we saw the reemergence of what’s undoubtedly the most exciting letter in the Honda alphabet – ‘R‘.

Back to the slightly more humdrum aspects of the Honda range, the hugely popular CR-V was thrust back into the limelight with a subtle facelift and the industry standard light upgrade. Perhaps more importantly though, it was announced that the 2.2l Diesel engine is to be mothballed and the 4WD model will adopt a more powerful version (160PS, 350Nm) of Honda’s 1.6l unit.

Earth Dreams Technology

Honda_CRV_1.6_2WD_WhiteWhat we have on test here is the 2WD CR-V, equipped with the same Earth Dreams Technology 1.6l Diesel, producing 120PS and 300Nm. We’ve been big fans of the CR-V here at Driving Torque since it’s launch;  it just does everything well, without making a song and dance about it. We’ve also made no secret of the fact that their 1.6l Diesel unit is a fabulous piece of kit; when we tested a Civic with it under the bonnet, we harboured strong suspicions that it may be moonlighting as a Diesel production plant – the fuel gauge stubbornly refused to move.

So, what happens when you put the two elements together? Do they compliment each other and work in perfect harmony? Or is it the automotive equivalent of garnishing roast beef with custard – two perfectly good ingredients that should never, ever meet.

Well – it’s good news! I can’t comment on the gastronomical qualities of substituting mustard for custard, but Honda seem to have come across another winning combination with this engine in this SUV.

Anyone unfamiliar with the CR-V can read my full review here; http://wp.me/pVgih-pn. In a nutshell, it’s a practical, beautifully built, mid-sized SUV that feels a cut above the competition in terms of quality, even if it doesn’t set the world alight in terms of tyre-screeching, face-melding performance.

Does it work with smaller Diesel unit?

Honda_CRV_white_sideThe oil-burner under the bonnet really is something to write home about though. I was a little concerned that it may not have the low-down grunt to adapt to life in the CR-V, due to the car’s extra weight and loss of aerodynamics. There’s currently no auto ‘box option with this engine, and a lack of torque could easily have resulted in an over-worked clutch pedal – a tired left leg soon gets boring and that would really have put a blot on this CR-V’s copybook. These fears were thankfully completely unfounded though; yes, you can detect a slight lack of oomph compared to the outgoing 2.2l Diesel, to deny that would be folly, but it’s undoubtedly more refined than its big brother, and the drop in performance doesn’t detract from the whole experience enough to warrant a mention.

Another big plus with the 1.6l is the slight loss of weight in the nose department compared to the 2.2l. No, it doesn’t turn the CR-V into a Nurburgring attacking monster, but it is more keen to turn in when asked to, just don’t expect tons of feedback from the slightly over-assisted steering.

Honda_CRV_white_rearHonda are obviously quite proud of their Earth Dreams project, and with good reason. This 1.6l unit isn’t just pretty good, it’s genuinely one of the best Diesel engines available today. Next year it’ll be tuned up and asked to power the full-fat 4WD CR-V, but if you don’t want or need all of the wheels to be driven, this slightly milder version comes in 2WD already, and it’s more than up to the task.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda CR-V 1.6l i-DTEC SR, Transmission – Manual, Layout – Front engine, Fwd, Power – 120PS, Torque – 300Nm, Emissions – 124g/km CO2, Economy – 60.1 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 113mph, Acceleration – 11.2s 0-62mph, Price – £27,315 OTR

Nissan X-Trail Xtronic 2WD – Driven and Reviewed

new_nissan_x-trail_greyAs cars progress from generation to generation, there’s usually a theme or a certain look that’s carried over from the previous model – it helps with identification and establishes a feeling of a legacy being continued. Not so – the new X-Trail. It’s undeniably a Nissan – similarities to the Qashqai and the Juke are many, but put this all-new model next to the last gen X-Trail, and you’d be hard pressed to spot the lineage.

new_nissan_x-trail_grey_sideThis is without doubt a wise decision. Nissan have moved the X-Trail’s looks out of the realms of  ‘anonymous box’, and thrust it into the limelight with some edgy, swoopy lines and shapes that scream ‘look at me!’ Not least of which being that shoulder line that drops down below the door mirror and then lifts dramatically to form the top of the front wheel arch, giving the impression that everything forward of the windscreen rises up in a quasi power-bulge fashion.

New_Nissan_X-Trail_Grey_noseThe ‘hawk-eye’ lights that some Nissans have adopted give a real look of attitude and purpose, although, from the front at least, it is quite difficult to tell the X-Trail apart from the hugely successful Qashqai. It’s a different story inside the X-Trail though. As every element is new on this model, the wheelbase is nearly 8cm longer than the outgoing X-Trail, and you can tell. For £700, you can add a third row of seats that sprout from the boot floor which, when combined with some very clever theatre-style seating in the rest of the car, is an option you’d be mad to omit.

new_nissan_x-trail_cabinThe rest of the cabin has some pretty effects here and there, and anyone familiar with previous X-Trail generations will be pleased to see the continuing presence of the cooled cup-holders for when you want to keep a can chilled. Our ‘Tekna’ test car represents the top of the New X-Trail range and it really is a tour-de-force of just what Nissan can do with electronic devices to make a car’s cabin a more pleasant and user-friendly environment. There’s the usual stuff we’ve come to take for granted these days, like auto lights and wipers and front and rear parking sensors, but then there’s a couple of toys that go somewhat beyond what you might expect in a Nissan SUV. Not least of which is what Nissan call a ‘360° Around View Monitor’ – roughly translated, this is a clever use of cameras which gives you a bird’s-eye view of the car when performing manoeuvres. Admittedly – it takes a little bit of getting used to at first, but once you’ve gotten over the initial ‘wow’ factor, I found it to be quite a handy tool.

Nissan's very clever bird's eye view parking approach

Nissan’s very clever bird’s eye view approach to parking

I don’t normally get animated at the size of a car’s turning circle but the X-Trail’s is surprisingly small, especially considering the size and nature of the vehicle. The X-Trail has been engineered to be a lot easier to ‘throw around’ than you might expect, with U-turns in relatively tight roads presenting no problems. When coupled with the parking aides mentioned above, the X-Trail is very easy to live with around town and prospective buyers shouldn’t be daunted in the slightest by its apparent dimensions.

New_Nissan_X-Trail_bootEngine choice in the New X-Trail is pretty easy as there’s currently only one available – a 130PS Diesel. It’s a tad rattly until it warms up if I’m honest, but once things settle down there’s very little intrusion of noise into the cabin, even at motorway speeds. There’s more choice in the drivetrain department though – you can opt for either 4WD or 2WD – I’m guessing the latter will be most popular – and if you do opt for 2WD, there’s also a choice of a manual ‘box or what Nissan call ‘Xtronic’; it’s a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) system which works by constantly adapting its gear ratios to suit the situation, but to all intents and purposes, looks and behaves like a traditional automatic ‘box. Opt for the 4WD though, and a manual ‘box is all that’s available.

new_nissan_x-trail_seven_seatsOur 2WD X-Trail is equipped with the Xtronic gearbox and it all works together very well. Things have come a long way since the idea of CVT became mainstream over a decade ago, and Nissan’s system is smooth and jolt-free, just as it was designed to be. My only grumble would possibly be that it can be a touch uncertain at times, and its constant hunt for the perfect ratio gets a little irritating when that search is ultimately fruitless.

new_nissan_x-trail_rear_greyIf you’re considering opting for a 4WD X-Trail for its superior on-road handling characteristics, it’s worth knowing that every single model in the range comes with Nissan’s Chassis Control system. The system monitors the car’s ride and handling and uses a combination of engine braking, automatic individual wheel braking and torque adjustment to correct things if they go slightly awry. Unlike some driver aids, you can really feel the Chassis Control working, especially as it navigates the car through wet or slippery bends. It can feel slightly strange at first but it’s a system that definitely improves the driving experience and, unless you plan on some ‘proper’ off -roading or towing, ultimately negates the 4WD model, especially as each element of the aid can be switched off individually if you desire.

new_nissan_x-trail_grey_front_3/4Nissan have established a fairly tight grip on certain segments of the SUV market in recent times, and even invented a whole new segment with the Juke. The X-Trail has always sold well but the previous generation was looking very dated. With its striking new looks and advances in the technology department, this latest X-Trail could quite easily prove another winner for Nissan.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Nissan X-Trail Tekna, Engine – 1.6l Diesel, Transmission – Xtronic CVT, Layout – Front Engine, FWD, Power – 130PS, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 11.4s, Maximum Speed – 112mph, Torque – 320Nm, Economy – 55.4mpg combined, Emissions – 135g/km CO2, Price – £30,645 OTR, £31,895 as tested

Mitsubishi ASX 4 2.2l Diesel 4WD – Driven and Reviewed

mitsubishi asx 4 sideIt took me a while to realise where I’d seen the basic shape of the ASX before, and then the Yen dropped. That prominent nose, disproportionately small rear end and minimal glass-housing aren’t a million miles away from the Range Rover Evoque – high praise indeed, also the Dodge Calibre – high praise……er……not-so-much. I can’t help but like the ASX’s gaping trapezoidal nose and I’m under no illusion as to why; in a range that offers the likes of the Outlander and the Mirage, the ASX (Active Sports Crossover……..erm – ASC?) is the only ‘car’ in Mitsubishi’s fleet that bears any resemblance at all to the sadly missed Lancer Evo – a car I always found appealing, even if it was in a brutish kind of way.

mitsubishi asx 4 frontThe ASX  is unashamedly a crossover, competing with the likes of the Qashqai and the Yeti, so it obviously comes complete with the compulsory elevated ride height and chunky wheels, and this only add to its appeal. Keeping glazing to a minimum also does a great job of keeping the whole look of the ASX compact – less like a minibus. It’s only really the rear-end of the ASX that lets the car down. Look on Mitsubishi’s own website and you’ll not find one picture of the ASX’s rump, and that’s because the car’s designers seem to have run out of either imagination or inclination when they got to this point. I appreciate that the slightly snubbed silhouette is due to Japan’s length based tax system, but they don’t tax pretty cars more than plain ones. It’s a shame really because the competition in this sector is fierce and I’m inclined to think that looks are a major deciding factor for crossover buyers. So to put such effort into 90% of the ASX and then leave the rear as some kind of afterthought doesn’t do it justice.

mitsubishi asx 4 rearIt’s a similar story inside the range-topping ASX 4; there’s many nice touches, with decent materials and some obvious thought put into the design, but they’re sadly let down by certain elements that are as confusing as they are annoying. Buttons and switch gear are haphazard in their placement, drinks are strictly forbidden in one of the cup-holders and the most tactile place in the whole car – the steering wheel, is made of a grade of plastic that develops a palpable tackiness after prolonged contact with human skin; If you’re going to use a pleasant, soft-touch material anywhere, it’s a good idea to start with the steering wheel. The theme continues throughout the ASX cabin; there’s a fashionable ‘Stop/Start’ button, but this means that you can’t wind down windows or listen to the Kenwood multi-media unit without the engine running, and even with it working, the Kenwood unit stubbornly refused to play music from my iPhone.

mitsubishi asx 4 boot

442 Litres of boot space

Room inside the ASX is more generous than you’d warrant, with plenty of space for five proper adults and a boot which I’m sure would suffice for anyone using it for the usual shopping/dog carrying trips. Visibility is excellent, thanks to the relatively short overhangs and lofty driving position, and parking is made even more simple thanks to the reversing camera which comes standard in the ASX 4. Another peculiarity within the whole ASX range though, is the unavailability of front or rear parking sensors which are glaringly absent on the options list. It may not be the most colossal car in the world, but parking any vehicle can only be aided by sensors – it may seem a small issue but it’s a strange omission that could ultimately sway potential buyers towards the opposition as they’ve grown accustomed to what is a commonly available feature these days, and they really don’t want to risk damaging their new pride and joy.

mitsubishi asx 4 badgeASX 4s all have selectable 4WD, ASX 2s are all driven by their front wheels, and in-between, there’s the ASX 3 – this might seem confusing but Mitsubishi always use numbers to identify their differently specced models. If  geography or lifestyle dictates that your ASX simply must be a 4×4, it’s Diesel only with a choice of a 1.8l 16V, or the 2.2l 16V unit we have on test here. The differences in performance between the two are negligible (118mph vs 115mph, 10.8s vs 10.6s 0-62mph in 2.2l and 1.8l respectively), where the 2.2l comes into its own is in terms of torque available (360Nm vs 300Nm), so if your ASX would be used as a towing vehicle, or if you must have an auto ‘box, I’d be tempted to plump for the larger engine. On the other hand, if you’re just after something with 4WD capabilities to guarantee that you’ll get to the top of the hill you live on in mid-January, I’d go for the 1.8 – it’s cheaper to run, cheaper to buy and is possibly a little more refined than this slightly gruff 2.2l.

mitsubishi asx 4 dialsOf course, if it’s just the looks and safety aspects of a crossover that floats your boat, there’s plenty of 2WD models available in both petrol and Diesel guises – they might not get you up the Eiger but they represent a big financial saving and are still generous in terms of standard kit.

mitsubishi asx 4 noseThis 2.2l Diesel might not be the most cutting edge power-plant in the world, a fact highlighted by its lack of stop-start technology, but the automatic gearbox that it’s mated to is fairly sweet around town, and shifts through its ratios with the minimum of fuss. Considering it’s relatively small wheelbase, it’s odd that the ASX possibly feels most settled when it’s eating up motorway miles. The ride that can feel a little firm over our typically scarred roads just seems to iron out any imperfections on the motorway, and you’d be surprised at how relaxing a long distance trip can be.

mitsubishi asx 4 rear and sideThe ASX is a slightly strange fish that should be given merit for standing out from the crowd. It does many things well, but unfortunately seems to do almost as many things wrong, and with no apparent reason. The problem with this is – the crossover sector is one of the most competitive in today’s market, and there’s plenty of alternatives that either look, or drive better than the ASX, and a few that do both.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Mitsubishi ASX 4, Engine – 2.2l DOHC Diesel, Transmission  6 speed Auto, Layout – Front Engine, 4WD, Power – 147bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 10.8s, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Torque – 360Nm, Economy – 48.7mpg combined, Emissions – 153g/km CO2, Price – £24,649

For full details, go to: http://www.mitsubishi-cars.co.uk

Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic – Driven and Reviewed

Range Rover Sport HSE front and sideIt’s never a nice feeling; you’re pootling along in a press car, weighing up all the apparent pros and cons to be mentioned in your review, and you notice something wrong. I’m not talking about a design element that’s not quite to your taste, or a material in the cabin that cheapens the setting somewhat – I mean a flaw, a blemish, a defect. Having driven the new Range Rover Sport for over 100 miles, I was quite definite that I’d be breaking some bad news to the engineers at Land Rover about the sturdiness of one of their products, thus generating embarrassment and uncomfortable silences all round; the digital fuel gauge was undoubtedly broken.

It just didn’t seem feasible that a 4×4 weighing over two tonnes, with nearly 290 bhp coming from a 3 litre lump would be able to cover this distance without even awakening the digital fuel gauge from its slumber. Oh, and did I mention that this RR Sport, in HSE Dynamic guise will hit 60 mph in a Golf Gti worrying – 6.8 seconds?

Range Rover Sport HSE sideBut then, it moved. Gone was the impending threat of awkwardness, in its place was a sensation of disbelief. Borrowing a fuel cell from one of the now defunct NASA space shuttles would, of course, extend the range a bit, but the clever people at RR have instead opted to keep the much more practical 80 litre tank. So, this thing just couldn’t be that economical, could it? Well yes, it could. Scrolling through the information available on the dash, I found that I was apparently averaging nearly 30mpg, and I hadn’t been anywhere near a motorway – this was all from driving around those fuel guzzling towns and B-roads.

Range Rover Sport HSE rear and sideIt turns out that this new-found eco-friendliness is down to heavy metal, or not-so heavy metal in this case. By ditching the Discovery’s chassis in favour of the full-blown Range Rover’s, they’re now utilising a material that actually was used on the space shuttle – aluminium, instead of conventional steel. By doing this, the Sport’s lost a hefty 420kg from its kerb-weight, mirroring the relatively svelte Range Rover flagship model.

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The big news coming from the Range Rover camp at the moment may be their ridiculously quick SVR model, with its 545bhp supercharged petrol engine, but this ‘base model’ 3.0 TDV6 remains the one to go for. There’s a bigger diesel available, also a 507 bhp variant of the petrol unit found in the SVR, and even a hybrid, but they can only be had if you opt for the pricier ‘Autobiography Dynamic’ spec. I say save your money and go for the base HSE or the HSE Dynamic we’ve got here; the 4.4l diesel is only marginally quicker than the 3.o and the supercharged petrol has a massive drinking problem. The hybrid might be worth a punt but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. That said, this model isn’t perfect either; to achieve those impressive economy stats, there’s the inevitable stop/start technology which, for me, is a little too keen to kick in. When the stop’s over and it’s time for start again, the power steering needs a touch longer than the engine to get up to speed and if you try to turn too quickly, the wheel kicks back at you until it’s got itself together.

Range Rover Sport HSE logo badgeThe TDV6 isn’t just the thrifty choice of engine either. The more lightweight nature of the V6 compliments the efforts made to slim-down the new Sport when it comes down to performance and handling too. That 6.8 second sprint to 60mph is impressive enough, but put enough power into any vehicle and it’ll respond accordingly; what’ll really put a smile on your face is the way this large 4×4 negotiates the inevitable twisty bits you’ll come across, and possibly a little sooner than expected. The brakes are obviously under a lot of pressure to calm things down slightly, but instead of that sinking feeling you sometimes get in weightier cars, as the body squirms under braking and you find yourself wishing they’d fitted some discs more similar in size to bin-lids, less like compact-discs, the Sport confidently reins things in with minimal fuss.

Range Rover Sport HSE side ventCome to a bend and the Sport really shows off what it’s all about. I’m always amused when I read a review of the latest 4×4 and its handling characteristics are criticised as they’re ‘just not enough like a normal car’ – I’ve never seen a Focus being besmirched for its inability to drive unaided up Ben Nevis. There are many large 4x4s on the market that were made for tarmac, that’s no secret, but a Range Rover must be able to cut it off-road, or it ain’t gonna get to wear that Land Rover badge. The way the Sport goes around bends isn’t just ‘quite good, considering its off-road capabilities’ – it’s really excellent. The leading corner dips ever-so-slightly on turn in, but then the dynamic chassis levels the whole car out and the torque vectoring system brings the rear wheels into play, giving the feeling that they’re pushing the car around, rather than the front wheels scrambling to pull. There is of course a trade-off for all this on-road fun, and in Dynamic mode especially, you will feel the bumps and potholes a little more than you’d expect in a Range Rover.

Locking diffs - the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

Locking diffs – the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

The silky-smooth, eight speed ZF ‘box that’s found its way into so many JLR products recently is once again present in the new Sport, and it’d be hard to argue against. Providing a vehicle of this size with a ‘sport’ mode on the gearbox does seem slightly akin to entering a shire horse into the Grand National, but it would be a little daft to delete this option when the car itself is called ‘Sport’. And besides, when the Sport handles as well as it does, it seems fitting to have a ‘box to match the performance. You can change gear yourself, either via the F-Type style trigger gear-lever or some paddles behind the wheel, but, to be honest, when a ‘box works as well as this one, I suspect you’ll end up just leaving it to its own devices.

Range Rover Sport HSE bonnet ventOne aspect I’ve not mentioned yet is how the new Sport looks. I wasn’t keen at all on the first gen Sport; I thought it was too squat and chunky for its own good and I was (possibly irrationally) irritated by the fact that the spare wheel was visible –  too Land Rover, not enough Range Rover, and it looked as if a body panel was missing. This new model is different though. Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have taken styling cues from their hugely popular stable-mate – the Evoque, and they’re all the better for it. There’s rounded corners and sweeping lights, cleverly adopted without losing that all-important Range Rover image. Gone is the exposed spare wheel, too, in its place is a under-tray like panel that sweeps up to meet the rear bumper, just like the Evoque’s does.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

The fact that I didn’t actually fit into the first gen Sport’s rear seats without the aid of a chiropractor was the final straw for me, I found that truly ridiculous. Not so the new model though. By using the larger Range Rover’s chassis, they’ve increased the room inside significantly, and I now fit into all five seats.

New Range Rover Sport comes with standard phone connectivity

New Range Rover Sport comes as standard with phone connectivity

At £64,995 on the road, the Sport certainly isn’t the cheapest, but you also get a lot of toys and luxuries for that money that you’d pay a premium for elsewhere. What you also undoubtedly get is one of the most comfortable, stylish ways of transporting people or cargo over large distances, and as it’s a Range Rover – those distances don’t necessarily have to be on-road.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic, Engine – 3.0l TDV6, Transmission – 8 speed ZF Auto, Layout – Front Engine, 4WD, Power – 288bhp, Acceleration – 0-60mph – 6.8s, Maximum Speed – 130mph, Torque – 600Nm, Economy – 37.7mpg combined, Emissions – 199g/km CO2, Price – £64,995 OTR, £78,595 as tested

For full details, go to http://www.landrover.co.uk


Peugeot 2008 1.6 e-HDi 115 Feline – Driven and Reviewed

Peugeot 2008 front 3/4The 208 signalled the start of a return to form for Peugeot upon its release in 2012. With uncluttered looks and pleasing dimensions, it’s proved a hit and Peugeot are understandably keen to cash in on this success. Previous incarnations of this range (207) have included an elongated ‘SW’ model – basically offering more room whilst avoiding the ‘estate’ moniker that every manufacturer seems chronically allergic to these days.

Not so the 208 though; for now at least, the SW has been dropped in favour of an extra zero – giving us the 2008 we have on test here. It’s the latest in a long line of ‘crossover SUVs’ to go on sale in the UK, so it’s in good company. With no lack of competition though, the 2008 is going to have to offer something a bit different to make a success of itself.

Peugeot 2008 sideThe 208 lineage is visually apparent from just a glance – everything from the nose to the B pillar is very similar, with a more utilitarian front apron added to compensate for the raised ride height – a compulsory feature on any self-respecting SUV. Things get a little different towards the rear of the 2008, with a bulge and rails having been added to the roof which culminates in a more vertical, practical rear hatch.

Aviation-style hand brake.......apparently

Aviation-style hand brake…….apparently

The overall look of the 2008 is attractive and offers more visual presence than the 208 it’s based on. It also cleverly avoids the rather awkward look of the SW model it succeeds and this theme continues on the inside. There are some styling cues added to set it apart from lesser models, not least of which is one of the most original hand brake levers I’ve ever encountered; no boring, long cylinder with a grab handle here – the 2008 sports a fist shaped ‘aviation’ device. What this achieves exactly, I’m not sure but it’s certainly a novelty that causes no offence. Elsewhere, the 2008’s cabin space is typically Peugeot – there’s the low-slung, undersized steering wheel that continues to cause debate, and some of the plastics used unfortunately hark back to the questionable QC days of the brand – a shame when they’ve proved what they can achieve in this department with the new 308.

Slide rails in cargo area - so simple yet so effective

Slide rails in cargo area – so simple yet so effective

There are other additions to the inside of the 2008 that are more function than form and add to the every-day usability of the car. Features such as cargo slide- rails on the boot carpet and wipe-clean plastics around the boot aperture are very welcome when the extra space is actually used for carrying loads – nothing worse than scuffs and marks on your new upholstery and trim!

'Cielo' glass roof option with ambient lighting

‘Cielo’ glass roof option with ambient lighting

Our range-topping Feline spec test car came equipped with the standard ‘Cielo’ glass roof and blind. If you’re markedly over 6′ tall, it might be wise to experience first-hand whether this option’s for you, as the headroom it takes up could make driving uncomfortable, even with the height-adjustable seats on their lowest setting.

Our test car came equipped with Peugeot’s 1.6l e-HDi Diesel unit in 115bhp guise – coincidentally, the same power as the legendary 1.6 205 Gti. Don’t expect similar performance to the Gti though, the 205 weighed roughly the same as your average paperclip, and the 2008…..doesn’t. Don’t expect silky-smooth levels of refinement, either – the HDi is loud and clattery in an old-school kind of way, and it takes an absolute age to get to optimum temperature. That shouldn’t necessarily sway anyone towards the petrol options either, though. What the Diesel lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for in performance and economy. It’s one of those engines that belies its official 0-62mph time of 10.4s, feeling far more perky in the real world, and ultimately, SUVs and crossovers get away with a bit more noise as it goes hand-in-hand with the rugged image they offer. There is a 92hp derivative of the same engine available that returns slightly better economy and even dips below the magical 100g/km Co2 mark (98g/km), but I’m not sure that the money saved would compensate for the extra 3 seconds on the 0-62 dash.

The raised ride-height doesn't impact too negatively on road manners

The raised ride-height doesn’t impact too negatively on road manners

Adding ground clearance to a car, even if it’s just a few inches, can change its road manners beyond all recognition. Not so the 2008 – Peugeot have kept things stiff and responsive, avoiding the wallowing sensation that ‘proper’ off-roaders can be blighted with.The levels of grip provided are surprisingly good, you just need to watch out for torque-steer if things get over-zealous on the loud pedal. This obviously means that once the tarmac runs out though, the 2008 isn’t going to act like the proverbial mountain goat – it’s just not going to happen. What Peugeot have provided to add some 4×4-like credibility is a very Land-Roverish function called Grip Control (standard on VTi 120, e-HDi 92(manual) and e-HDi 115 models in Allure and Feline specs). What this function provides is fairly self-explanatory, but to see it in action – go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTVPxHX1jZo&feature=youtu.be

Peugeot's Grip Control system

Peugeot’s Grip Control system

This area of the market has grown substantially over the last few years and it shows no signs of abating. The moral backlash against 4x4s hasn’t decreased their popularity at all, but the inflated price of fuel and VED has resulted in the advent of ‘crossovers’ that combine the rugged looks with more reasonable running costs. This means that the 2008 has some pretty stiff competition, but with the right engine, it’s got the looks and quality that’ll certainly appeal.

By Ben Harrington


Specifications; Peugeot 2008 Feline, Engine – 1.6l e-HDi, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 115bhp, Torque – 270Nm @ 1750rpm, Emissions – 106g/km CO2, Economy – 70.6mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 117mph, Acceleration – 10.4s 0-60mph, Price – £19,445

Peugeot's 2008 - the first car to come complete with it's own Standard Lamp.........that's a lie.

Peugeot’s 2008 – the first car to come complete with it’s own Standard Lamp………that’s a lie.






Mercedes GLA Class – First Drive at UK Launch

Mercedes GLA sideAs a rule, a manufacturer develops a mainstream, run-of-the-mill model, has some success with it, and then spawns various ‘niche’ models based on the back of this success. Mercedes are perhaps the king of this school of thinking, seemingly offering a model to suit every individual’s needs. The A class has always been a little different; in an apparent fit of reverse evolution, the original, quirky A class was like nothing previously offered from, well, anybody, with it’s current incarnation having been transformed into a regular, Golf sized hatchback.

But, hang on a minute though. What we have here is an apparent return to form – it’s  the Mercedes GLA – a jacked up, SUV derivative of their now sensible ‘A’, fully prepared to jump on the small SUV bandwagon that’s taken the world by storm.

Mercedes GLA rearEvery manufacturer is keen to emphasise the real-world capability of their off-road models, regardless of size, and Mercedes are no different. I’m fairly sure that 500ft below the roads is a unique location to showcase these abilities but that’s where we found ourselves, 500ft down a salt mine in sunny Cheshire, no less.

This might sound a little extreme and, possibly a tad irrelevant, as there was none of the usual mud, deep water and nerve-janglingly steep inclines that off-road courses generally boast. In fact though, it served very well in replicating the demands that are more likely to be made of cars such as the GLA – an uneven, unpredictable surface with a few ascents, all tackled at around 20mph – more school mum than Sahara desert.

Back on top of terra-firma, away from 100% darkness, it’s easier to gain a true perspective of what the GLA is all about.

Mercedes GLA front and side


Visually, Mercedes haven’t strayed very far away from the A class recipe – it obviously sits higher than the hatch but other differences are subtle, the most obvious being some chunky aprons and wheel-arch extensions. The rise in ride height isn’t over-dramatic, rather just enough to make the GLA noticeable next to a regular hatchback.

The GLA comes with a choice of two Diesel engines – 200 or 220 CDI, and one 250 petrol. You can opt for two driven wheels instead of Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD system, and a manual ‘box, but you’ll be restricted to the lesser powered Diesel engine if you do.

Mercedes GLA sideSpeccing your GLA is fairly simple, with two lines on offer – SE or AMG. A GLA 45 AMG is due out in June, but for now, going for the latter option won’t turn your GLA into a 911-baiting monster. The AMG part equates to some sports suspension and a few visual tweaks, inside and out, it also provides you with some AMG sports seats. Having experienced both specs, I’d personally opt for the SE  – the ride seems more appropriate with a bit more ‘give’, and those AMG seats can pinch a little – especially on those of us with, shall we say, a more generous frame.

Mercedes GLAWith prices starting at £28,850 OTR, I foresee the 2WD, 200 CDI model being the pick of the bunch as it combines an admirable 119g/km CO2 output, with those sought after SUV looks – historically the two most important factors in this genre.

By Ben Harrington

For full details go to; www.mercedes-benz.co.uk/GLA_Class

Range Rover Evoque – First Drive

Ben Harrington of Driving Torque drives and reviews the Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque Coupe

Bertone, Karmann, Pininfarina and now, Beckham. For all of their years of designing and building serious, rugged 4x4s, the new Evoque will forever be tagged as the car that Victoria built and obviously that’s just the way that Land Rover want it. I’m going to put this possible error of judgement to one side however and attempt to deliver an honest, unbiased review on what is repeatedly labelled as the greatest new model to have been launched in recent memory, by anyone.

On the particular day that I tested the latest Range Rover, I was lucky enough to have not one, not two but three of them to go at, both a coupe and 5dr 4wd and the latest addition to the group, the 2wd- eD4.

Ben Harrington of Driving Torque driving Range Rover Evoque 5dr

Range Rover Evoque

The 4wd coupe I was testing sported the SD4 2.2 litre diesel engine, capable of 0-60mph in 8.os, 169g/km CO2 and 43.5mpg combined. But the real fun was to be found in the 5dr as it had the Si4 2.o litre petrol under the bonnet, pushing the 0-60mph time down to a very respectable 7.0s but consequently the economy suffered at 32.5mpg combined and 199g/km, I’m predicting that the petrol will be a rare sight on Britain’s roads. Apart from the engines and the obvious lack of rear entrances and exits on the coupe, the 3dr and 5dr 4wds that I was testing were virtually identical and so I’ll group these two together. Both were the range topping Dynamic models, prices start at £39,995 for the 5dr and £40,995 for the coupe and both were fitted with the optional Lux pack, weighing in at a not-insignificant £4,325. These cars were unashamedly meant to impress.

Putting practicality swiftly to one side, in my humble opinion the Evoque looks at it’s best in 3dr guise and from every angle the coupe I tested does look a million dollars, which makes the £44,325 price tag seem a bargain. Now, there’s two ways of looking at the list price of an Evoque; yes, its expensive when compared with some other similar size 4x4s on the market but those other 4x4s aren’t Range Rovers. So maybe the best way to consider the price is from the angle of how much money you’d be saving over a similarly specced Range Rover Sport or even a fully grown Range Rover, both of which could easily cost double the amount of the Evoque with options.

The Range Rover Evoque prepares to attempt a gradient

Can the Evoque cut it off-road…………

Anyway, back to my test cars. The quality of the grown up Range Rovers has been successfully transplanted in terms of materials and interior finish into this baby one, without creating a 70% size photocopy- that would have been far too easy. Obviously, you just don’t get the acres of space that’s found in its big brothers – that would be impossible but the Evoque isn’t all about compromise either. The driving position for starters is unique to this model; it offers that essential high up feeling in order to gain superiority over lesser mortals but it very cleverly avoids an industry standard, bolt-upright posture in favour of a far more cosseting, sporty position that results in an entirely more engaging sensation. Another feature that’s unique to the Evoque are the jewelled rings that adorn the instrument dials. On first impression, these could simply be considered a tacky bit of bling, inspired by Mrs B. On closer inspection however, this ring detailing is echoed in the front and rear light clusters and somehow seems appropriate for the model, especially when they change colour, reflecting how spirited the selected driving mode is.

Having only previously seen the Evoque in the flesh from the outside, I was somewhat surprised to glance rearwards from the driver’s seat and find proper, adult size leg room for your lucky rear passengers. I was so astonished in fact that I leapt out of the car, determined to open the boot and therefore expose this bounder’s shortcomings. I’m fairly sure that a genuine double-take then occurred when I discovered a decent size boot, 550 litres in the coupe and 575 litres in the 5dr, to be exact. Just to put this into context, the Audi A4 Avant’s boot weighs in at 490 litres, that’s over 10% smaller than even the coupe, all of a sudden this baby Rangey doesn’t seem quite so compact. And I’m right, it’s neither small nor a tardis – the Evoque actually measures 4355-65mm, under 10cm less than aforementioned A4 so it could hardly be considered a super-mini. When placed on its own and not being compared to its palatial siblings, the Evoque is a car that’s realistically capable of transporting a family of four and all their luggage around in comfort.

Out on the road, the 4wd Evoque’s driving experience confirms what the seating position had previously hinted at; this car is no wallowy barge that has to be coaxed around corners with its wing mirrors scraping the floor. With the Terrain Response system set to dynamic (menacing red instrument dials) this genuinely rides like a capable hot-hatch, even the diesel engine in the 5dr was keen with little engine noise disturbing the tranquility of the cabin. My only complaint would be that the 6 speed automatic ‘box found in both the Dynamic models had an unnerving tendency to change gear whilst tackling bends. This made the whole car’s geometry go out of shape, not a pleasant feeling whilst negotiating a sweeping left hander. This situation could maybe be avoided by opting to change gear yourself but there’s no guarantee that the ‘box won’t disagree with your chosen gear and select a different one anyway.

The Range Rover Evoque tackles a tricky angle

………….yes it can!

One aspect of the Evoque that I was eager to assess was it’s off-road ability as this is where it’s attracted many doubters. Could this very fashionable vehicle prove itself to be as comfortable plugging mud as it is looking good? To put it through its paces I was going to take the Evoque around the rigorous off-road Land Rover Experience at Gaydon, a track I’d previously tackled in a Discovery although I think on that occasion the car was guiding me round, not vice versa. Now, I’m not naive to think that the good folk at Range Rover would risk the embarrassment of their new baby coming unstuck and certainly not on their home turf but my experience of proper off-road driving is limited at best and I wanted to see how assured a ham fisted novice such as myself would feel when tackling the rough stuff. One limitation that became immediately apparent was the comparative lack of ground clearance, some strengthened belly plates had been fitted to the test car to protect its vulnerable underside. I must stress however that this course is no walk in the park and on the few occasions that there was an audible scrape, it was on the most extreme of obstacles, not a kerb in Tesco’s car park. Otherwise, the Evoque successfully defeated any problems thrown at it, all without the aid of a low ratio gearbox and a locking differential, these are replaced with electrical wizardry controlling the drivetrain, dependant on the selected terrain mode.

Having assessed that the 4wd Dynamic Evoques are luxurious, capable off road and have excellent road manners, I went for a spin in the latest addition to the group – the ‘base model’ 2wd eD4 in Pure trim with a six speed manual gearbox. Just to clarify things a little, the entry-level Range Rover is a little different to how I remember other model’s entry levels; heated leather comes as standard, as do climate control and combined sat nav/entertainment screen; a far cry from the lack of a near-side wing mirror on some base models I’ve owned. It is an odd sensation getting into the driver’s seat of a Range Rover and finding a third pedal and a gear-stick but the gearchange is assuredly positive with a purposeful short shift between gears. On the road, the manual has the obvious advantage of feeling more engaging than the auto and avoids that unwanted mid-corner shift I encountered in the auto. I’m not entirely sure however whether there’s great demand in today’s 4×4 wielding society for a Range Rover that relies on the driver to change gear themselves;even taking into account the depleted fuel economy and £1,600 price hike, the auto just feels more at home than the manual. Some switch gear is lost in the transition from 4wd to 2wd Evoque as it loses its Terrain Response system but I’m sure this would only be noticeable if you transferred straight from one model to the other as I did. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chaps at Range Rover were unwilling to let me take the 2wd model around their off road test track but I’m led to believe that even with only two driven wheels, the Evoque is better than you’d imagine when the going gets tough. Quite why anyone would opt for the 2wd Evoque over the 4wd Evoque (or any other 4×4) if they were planning on doing any off-roading is another matter.

To conclude, the Evoque is a comfortable, luxurious and surprisingly spacious car and in 4wd guise it can wear the Range Rover badge without fear of diluting the brand. The 2wd eD4 Evoque offers most of the benefits of the 4wd with possibly better road manners and some attractive financial savings- when compared with similarly specced cars, however, it may be difficult to justify its price tag whilst losing its off road capabilities.

By Ben Harrington


eD4 Pure Coupe;£29,695, 2.2l Diesel, 2WD, 150bhp, 0-60 mph = 10.6s, 112mph max, 56.5 mpg combined, 133g/km CO2

SD4 Dynamic Coupe; £40,995, 2.2l Diesel, 4WD, 190bhp, 0-60 mph = 8s, 121mph max, 43.5 mpg combined, 174g/km CO2

Si4 Dynamic 5dr; £39,995, 2.0l petrol, 4WD, 240bhp, 0-60 mph = 7.1s, 135mph max, 32.5 mpg combined, 199g/km CO2

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